LINGUIST List 14.2188

Tue Aug 19 2003

Diss: Pragmatics: Yarmohammadi: 'Politeness ...'

Editor for this issue: Naomi Fox <>


  1. nyarmohammadi, Politeness Strategies in English and Persian

Message 1: Politeness Strategies in English and Persian

Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003 04:30:00 +0000
From: nyarmohammadi <>
Subject: Politeness Strategies in English and Persian

Institution: Allame Tabataba'ee University
Program: Teaching English
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Niloufar Yarmohammadi 

Dissertation Title: Politeness Strategies in English and Persian in

Linguistic Field: Pragmatics 

Subject Language: Farsi, Western (code: PES ) English (code: ENG )

Dissertation Director 1: Zohreh Eslami Rasekh
Dissertation Director 2: Lotfollah Yarmohammadi
Dissertation Director 3: Seyed-Ali Miremadi

Dissertation Abstract: 

Using the theoretical framework proposed by Brown and Levinson (1987),
a study was carried out to compare and contrast the use of politeness
strategies within the speech acts of favor asking (with perceived High
and Low ranking of imposition), griping and complaint across the
Persian and British English communities. This study also attempted to
find out whether and to what extent these speech acts are face
threatening. Further, this research aimed at highlighting several
contextual variables, ie, power, ranking of imposition and gender that
can affect the production of speech acts, and hence contribute to our
understanding of the concept of politeness as verbally realized in
these speech communities.

The participants included 142 volunteers representing three
cultural/linguistic backgrounds: British native speakers of English
(NSE), Tehrani advanced learners of English (EFL), and Tehrani
monolingual speakers of Persian (NSP). Each group was further divided
into male and female groups.

A written discourse completion task consisting of 24 enhanced
situations built around Billmyer and Varghese (2000) was designed to
elicit the speech acts. There were 6 types of relationships
representing equal and low to high social status/power. Each
situation was followed by 2 sets of questions requiring the
participants to envisage themselves to be at first interlocuting with
a person of the same gender and next with an interlocutor of the
opposite gender. They were to write what they would say to each and
mark the ranking of imposition they felt on a Likert scale of 1 to 3
from least to most. The tactic of back-translation was employed to
produce the Persian version of the task.

The results of the study revealed significant differences between male
and female NSE, EFL and NSP groups in their choice and frequency of
strategies in carrying out the acts. The NSP and EFL groups have
mostly used more than twice as many strategies as the NSE, making
their utterances considerably longer, and with respect to the type of
strategies more indirect than the NSE, which also shows a transfer
effect from Persian to English for the EFL. Moreover, to the NSE the
gender of the interlocutor made no difference in their production of
the speech acts, but to the EFL and NSP it did, making their
utterances more indirect.

The analyses further revealed that to the 3 groups, the size of
imposition mattered with respect to the speech acts. They all shared
the view that favor asking (Low) involving the requirement of less
expenditure of services and goods was less imposing than favor asking
(High), which requried more expenditure of services and goods.
Similarly, griping was found to be less imposing than complaint to the
groups. Also, the power of the interlocutor was deemed and important
factor in calculating the size of imposition for the NSE and EFL. But
for the NSP, the perceived level of imposition proved to be the same
for interlocutors of the equal and unequal status.

In sum, with respect to the above-mentioned findings and the abundance
of differences, it seems likely that cross-cultural communication
between the two communities in terms of these speech acts can pose
considerable difficulties. And factors such as, the number and type
of politeness strategies, the amount of indirectness, ranking of
imposition, power and especially the gender of the interlocutor as
conceived by the two communities are considered areas, which can bring
about cross-cultural miscommunication.
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